Election integrity advocates recently had a very important win when a federal district court ruled that challenging the eligibility of thousands of voters in Georgia did not constitute “voter intimidation.”
Back in 2020, True the Vote, Derek Somerville and I, and three other activists were all sued by Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization for allegedly violating the Prohibited Acts section of the Voting Rights Act. We had independently organized two different sets of challenges to voters with residency issues ahead of Georgia’s 2021 U.S. Senate runoff. True the Vote’s challenges were broader in scope than the challenges Derek and I had coordinated, which were narrowly focused on voters who appeared to have already cast ballots with residency issues in the 2020 general election.
When the judge ruled in favor of all the defendants in the case and found that there had “not been any violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act by any of the named Defendants,” we got to experience “the thrill of victory,” and Fair Fight got to experience “the agony of defeat,” which was well deserved for dragging our good names through the mud for three solid years.
While it certainly felt great to finally be exonerated, what exactly did we “win”? We may have bloodied the noses of the schoolyard bullies, but other than walking away satisfied and knowing that they may think twice before coming after us again, what was the point of it all?
What about all the illegal voting the challenges were meant to call attention to or possibly even prevent? What about the challenges most counties were too scared to take up once Marc Elias threatened them with an expensive lawsuit? Wasn’t that illegal voting the point of it all?
Once upon a time, the following language served to summarize portions of Georgia’s residency laws on our secretary of state’s voter registration web page:
If you move outside the county in which you are registered to vote in excess of 30 days prior to an election, you have lost your eligibility to vote in the county of your old residence. You must register to vote in your new county of residence. You will be assigned a new voting precinct and polling location. Remember, if you don’t register to vote by the deadline, you cannot vote in that particular election.
You can still see it for yourself in “The Wayback Machine” if you give it time to load.
I wonder why that page vanished?
In fact, I asked Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as well as his chief operating officer Gabe Sterling and his general counsel Ryan Germany, about that in an email back in June 2022, but they still haven’t gotten back to me. I wonder why that is?
Well, now I know. So let me tell you the story of “Exhibit 61.”
In May 2021, I gave nearly 35,000 voter records to our secretary of state for an investigation into votes cast in the 2020 general election with residency issues, which his office had already agreed to open. The analysis of the voter data I had done on or about Nov. 25, 2020, indicated those voters had filed changes of address to an address in a different county more than 30 days before the election, but they had apparently failed to re-register there and wound up casting ballots in their previous counties.
When they did so, if they knowingly lied about where they lived, that would have arguably been a felony violation of Georgia Code § 21-2-562. Some of those voters may have filed those permanent changes of address for what was really a temporary relocation, but certainly not all of them.
Following that election, more than a third of those voters finally got around to updating their driver’s licenses and/or voter registrations to the exact same addresses they told the U.S. Postal Service they were moving to well before the election. When they did so, they basically provided corroborating evidence that the change of address information they gave the USPS was accurate.
In July, WSB-TV Atlanta decided to do a story on all this after an article about it was published by The Federalist. WSB-TV filed an open records request with the secretary of state, got a copy of the data, and went out to interview some of those voters.
One voter candidly admitted he’d moved from Fulton to DeKalb but went back and voted in Fulton. Another was seemingly indignant and vehemently insisted that although he had indeed moved from Gwinnett to Fulton, he voted with a Fulton County ballot and put it in a Fulton County drop box. Yet the absentee data and the vote history trailers both indicated he voted in his old county. Part of me wished Channel 2 hadn’t put those voters on the spot like that, but the rest of me wished they had interviewed a hundred more people on the list!
It was around that time I discovered the aforementioned webpage had vanished from the secretary of state’s website.
Now, let’s fast forward to the Fair Fight v. True the Vote case. One day, our attorneys asked me about “Exhibit 61,” which turned out to be an email Fair Fight obtained from our secretary of state through an open records request.
That email contained a “legal analysis” that Raffensperger’s general counsel Ryan Germany had completed for Factcheck.org, which I was previously unaware of, that attempted to discredit my analysis of the voter data I had sent to them to investigate. This was after the secretary of state’s office tried to hire me to work for them, twice, and that second time was less than a year earlier.
In the email, Germany, like our secretary of state, seems to like to argue that the residency issues we have are caused by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), and there’s not much they can do about them. That is partially true, as all the best lies are. The NVRA is certainly a major contributing factor to our underlying list maintenance issues, but it also does not require or implicitly permit voters to lie about where they live when they go to vote. They make that choice all on their own.
Then he also seemed to argue that under our own state law, Georgia Code § 21-2-224, we must allow voters to cast ballots where they are registered, apparently even if they have moved permanently to a new county but failed to re-register there, and their votes would then be cast in violation of both state and federal law. Let me quote the relevant portions of that law so you can spot his clever sophistry:
(d) Each elector who makes timely application for registration, is found eligible by the board of registrars and placed on the official list of electors, and is not subsequently found to be disqualified to vote shall be entitled to vote in any primary or election; provided, however, that an elector, voting in the primary or primaries held by a single party for the nomination of candidates to seek public offices to be filled in an election, shall not vote in a primary held by any other party for the nomination of candidates to seek public offices to be filled in the same such election.
(h) All persons whose names appear on the list of electors placed in the possession of the managers in each precinct and no others, except as otherwise provided in this article, shall be allowed to deposit their ballots according to law at the precinct in which they are registered.
Left out of the “legal analysis” for Factcheck.org was the phrase “except as otherwise provided in this article” and the entire section requiring that electors must “not [be] subsequently found to be disqualified to vote.”
But aren’t those precisely the voters we’re talking about here? Germany had completely twisted the meaning of the statute, attempting to make it say the exact opposite of what it says on this subject. Of course, the “fact” “checkers” didn’t call him out on it.
So now let me just sum this up for you. The evidence is clear, and it shows we likely had thousands of unlawful votes cast in the 2020 election. Those same issues also happened again in the 2021 Senate runoff, again in the 2022 general election, and will no doubt happen again in the 2024 general election because nothing has been done about them.
Our secretary of state and his staff have repeatedly admitted that these residency violations do occur. They admitted in that now-infamous phone call with President Trump that they were “going through” the lists of potential residency violations, but as you can see in the transcript, they wouldn’t put a number on them, although the Trump attorneys had asked several times for one.
So after painting themselves into quite a corner, what did they decide to do when they realized they couldn’t dispute the evidence or admit Trump and his attorneys were right? They apparently decided to dispute the law itself instead.
Their position on these unlawful votes that continue to be cast in our elections is now a 180-degree about-face from the position taken by previous secretaries of state and from the one Raffensperger himself had on his office’s voter registration webpage for his first couple of years in office.
That isn’t just cowardice, it’s straight-up corruption, and from a man who had the unmitigated gall to publish a book titled Integrity Counts.
Really, Brad? It’s been nearly three years. How’s the investigation you promised coming along?
The data Brad Raffensperger has been sitting on is the same data I gave the Trump attorneys long before that phone call ever took place. Trump was not asking Raffensperger to manufacture 11,779 unlawful votes, as some love to claim. He was asking him to investigate the unlawful votes the president and his attorneys were already very well aware of.
Here is the sad reality: When Raffensperger ran for secretary of state, his most ardent supporters, including me, were supporters of election integrity. Raffensperger told us exactly what we wanted to hear, and we thought we were supporting one of our own, but all we were really getting was lip service. When it came down to it, and integrity really did count, he chose to betray us all.
If Raffensperger had wanted to, he could have finally done the investigation our president asked him for, and he could have disabused the entire nation of the nonsense allegations Trump has been facing ever since. He refused to do that, and I expect he will continue to refuse because he is more concerned with his own aspirations, which I am hearing include a campaign for governor.
Understand, I am not arguing for felony prosecutions of thousands of Georgia voters, but we cannot fix a problem unless we admit we have a problem. And right now, our biggest problem is Brad Raffensperger.